Stress is universal, and our bodies are designed to handle it. “But when it gets chronic, that’s where it can really affect aspects of our brain and our mind,” Dr. Cecil Webster, an adult, adolescent and child psychiatrist and lecturer at McLean Hospital, said on this week’s episode of Basic Black. 

Stress doesn’t affect everyone equally. Black Americans are more likely to experience economic hardship, which is a primary source of stress, and suffer mental trauma from police killings of unarmed Black Americans in their communities. Other stressors may seem minor, but they add up. Dr. Zachary Hermes, a fellow in cardiovascular medicine at Mass General Brigham and chief medical officer at WellWithAll, referred to these as “small-'t' traumas,” like a Black doctor being assumed to be a patient transport assistant at the hospital.

Dr. Lucy Lomas, executive director of the New England Medical Association and an OB-GYN, said that when patients can relate to their doctors, they are more likely to open up. “It creates a more meaningful interaction, and the patient gets way more out of it,” said Lomas.

The Basic Black guests said it's important for individuals to identify practices that work for them to decrease stress and improve mental and physical health, including options such as diet changes, exercise and mindfulness.

Marlene Boyette, a trauma-informed yoga instructor who teaches at the Advent School and JP Centre Yoga, said that mindfulness doesn’t have to be a huge commitment.

“Before you start to give your attention to everything else, acknowledge how your body is feeling, acknowledge the state that your heart is in and what you might need for that day. That’s a mindfulness practice. And that’s something that can be done every day,” said Boyette.

Watch this week’s episode of Basic Black to get the full conversation.